A welcome step on vaccination | HT Editorial
After the peak of the first Covid-19 wave, the seven-day average of new cases (also known as the case trajectory) dropped to the lowest on February 11 across India, when it touched 10,988. Since then, it has started rising again, and touched 13,253 on Tuesday — a jump of 21%. This is, at present, fuelled by a handful of states. In Maharashtra, the case trajectory has gone up 143% in the same time period; in Punjab, daily cases have increased 66%; in Madhya Pradesh, by 56%; and in Jammu and Kashmir, by 40%.
As alarm grows over what appears to be the beginning of India’s second Covid-19 wave, the Union government on Wednesday lifted some key restrictions to speed up vaccination and expand the parameters of who is eligible for inoculation. From next month, the drive has been opened to people above 60 and those above 45 with comorbidities. Significantly, the government has also allowed that vaccines — which will be given free at all State-run facilities to those eligible under these new criteria — can be administered for a price at private hospitals to those who can afford them. This is a welcome first step towards opening up the vaccination drive — both in terms of private sector involvement, and providing access to vulnerable groups other than health care and frontline workers — at a time when there is a drastic need to scale up.
There are other key measures that need to be taken — the approval of more vaccines, allowing its open market sale for all, and permitting companies to buy in bulk in order to administer vaccines to employees and their families. It is important that India leverages its relative success against Covid-19 to equip its citizens in the face of a race against time against a possible second wave. Wednesday’s decision by the Union Cabinet marks a step in the right direction. More is needed.